Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's Creosote?

   If you have a fireplace or a wood stove, chances are you've heard the word Creosote, but what exactly is it?   

  In essence, creosote is condensed smoke. It comes from the incomplete combustion of the oils in the wood. As the smoke rises through the chimney, it cools, causing water, carbon, and volatiles to condense on the interior surfaces of the chimney flue.

   Creosote is black in appearance with an oily and gummy texture.

   Over time, creosote deposits can become several inches thick, creating a compound problem. The increasing accumulation can reduce the airflow through the chimney, which will prevent the fire from burning hot enough. It will send more smoke that will condensate throughout the flue adding another layer of creosote.

   The most important fact to remember about creosote is that it is highly combustible. 

   73% of heating fires and 25% of all residential fires in the United States are caused by failure to clean out creosote buildup.

   When creosote ignites, the result is a chimney fire that often spreads to the main building because the chimney gets so hot that it will ignite any combustible material in direct contact with it, such as wood framing around the chimney.

   As dangerous as creosote is, regular preventive maintenance in the form of sweepings done by a chimney professional to remove the buildup, goes a long way to ensure the safety of your home. Yearly checkups are a must when you own a fireplace or a wood stove in order to assess the condition of the system.

   In the event that a sweeping alone does not reduce the risk of a chimney fire adequately, chemical treatments come into play. Due to the strength of these chemicals, this is a job best left for chimney professionals, who have been trained in the proper safety procedures to handle the job.

   The treatments are applied on a weekly basis depending on the severity of accumulation, giving the chemicals time to breakup the buildup, which is then removed by sweeping the flue with scraping brushes.

  Creosote is an inevitable byproduct of burning wood, but by adhering to a solid maintenance schedule by chimney professionals, you and your family can enjoy the warmth of a fire, knowing someone who's versed on fire prevention is there to ensure your safety.

   Javier A. Robayo
   Copyright 2014© Advanced Chimney Service, LLC

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